On May 22nd, the Nyiragongo volcano erupted in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, sending half a million Congolese to safety. Many of the refugees carried their mattresses on their backs, often more than ten miles. Why?
Kambale Musavuli is the spokesman for the US solidarity group Friends of the Congo. He is in contact with his family members who have fled Goma, the town at the foot of the volcano. He said, “People know what to do when they have to become refugees. My parents and grandparents have had to run away from violence over the past few decades. There was already 5.5 million displaced people in the Congo, even before the volcano erupted. ”
He continued, “My relatives do not know when to return. They know that there is nowhere where they end. So bring your mattresses with you so that you have a place to sleep. “
The rich world has been exploiting the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s natural resources for more than a century, but when another crisis hits, silence and inaction reign again. This chronic indifference has contributed to what is perhaps the worst ongoing humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II. The International Rescue Committee appreciated that at least 5.4 million Congolese have died of violence, hunger and disease since 1998.
The Western media have so far not reported adequately on the volcanic crisis – and there is absolutely no sense of urgency in government offices in Washington, Brussels or London. If a tragedy of the same magnitude occurred anywhere in America, Europe or Japan, plane loads of journalists would be on the way. Jan Egeland, the former UN humanitarian officer in charge of Norway’s relief efforts, is in Goma, and he describes the crisis as “the world’s greatest neglected emergency”.
Egeland warned that the global call for humanitarian aid to the DR Congo was only 12 percent funded by mid-May. Even before the volcano erupted, another aid organization, CARE, said, that Almost 7 million Congolese were “one step away from famine”.
The DR Congo and its 87 million people may seem a long way off to readers in the west. But much of their misery is due to powerful Western corporations, including mining multinationals like Glencore and Ivanhoe and an Israeli billionaire named Dan Gertler. Gertler’s case is particularly shocking. He was supposedly so corrupt that even the Trump Treasury sanctioned him in 2017which prevents him from doing business worldwide. (Trump card, Lobbying by lawyer Alan DershowitzHe lifted the sanctions during his last week in office, but luckily the Biden administration did they imposed again March.)